Electoral College

OUR COUNTRY’S founding fathers distrusted the intelligence, sense and perhaps motives of the public at large. They were not willing when they wrote the Constitution to allow for the popular election of the president and vice president. Instead, they created the Electoral College to handle this magnificent responsibility.

As with many things in politics, the creation of the college resulted from a compromise between those who wanted direct election of the president by the voters — at that time only adult, white males — and those who supported appointment of the president by more restricted means, such as inheritance. Thankfully, George Washington didn’t want to be king. The Constitution originally mandated that the college’s elector’s be chosen by the state legislatures. This was later changed to the present, indirect system in which voters vote for members of the Electoral College, often without knowing their names, and those electors vote for the president.

Each state gets as many votes in the Electoral College as the total number of its Congressmen and Senators. For example, Ohio with 16 Congressmen and two senators gets 18 votes. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the Electoral College, the decision of whom to elect president falls to the U.S. House of Representatives. That’s happened twice — in 1800 and 1824.

WORSE YET, because the winning candidate in each state receives all of that state’s electoral votes, it’s mathematically possible for the candidate who receives the majority of popular votes to lose the election. In fact, it’s possible for a candidate to have a large majority of the popular vote and still lose in the Electoral College.

That ridiculous set of circumstances has happened four times in the history of our country — in 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000. With most polls listing the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney as too close to call, we have to wonder — and worry — about the possibility of that happening again.